A different approach to learning how to write

“In the real world” [I shutter at the cliché, so please do note the sarcasm] writing is such a critical part of having a well-rounded competence to tackle any issue at hand.  For many children, credit or debit signatures may be the most they see you, their inherent role model, put pen to paper.  I’m not asking you to feel bad that you are not inclined to write, I am merely pointing out that literally most institutionally educated kids do not witness the little details that real world experience involves. 

It is up to us to recreate little snippets of ways to make an ordinary situation – extraordinary.  In regards to spelling, vocabulary, and learning how to write, this is our family’s current approach.  Take note that our boys are now in grades 5 & 8, so our methods have evolved with their developmental capacity. 

Instead of trying to make them fit any mold, I have always considered their daily progress and effort in order to decide what must come next, be reviewed, or skipped altogether.  Not once have I issued a number or letter grade, but have let the number of necessary corrections be the natural consequence:  the fewer errors, the less work, thus the reward. 

Spelling and vocabulary lists are pulled from current reading, whether fiction or non-fiction titles.  All fiction must be of a substantial quality, although in the beginning when 1st struggling to identify meaning behind letter sounds, anything becomes a substantial source for new reading opportunities.  That includes McDonald’s menu choices, car wash dials, search engine input, you name it.

Once they have a good working visual vocabulary, amp it up with a constant stream of reading books.  Beforehand, it is best to focus on 6-10 easy, sturdy favorites.  Remember from my previous post, repetition is key.  Always have more story books on hand than you think they will have time to read.  Your child will soon surprise you.  Plus, minutes studying words could lead to hours [willingly!] if you offset the redundancy of effort with giving your child the illusion of control as they pick from a vast array of books.

They will let you know when they are ready for chapter books that are not illustrated.  Even with good reading skills, rich artwork submerges the child in a multisensoral experience, and their brain begins enriching the visual bank of words necessary to draw upon later.

So some of that may have been obvious coming into this, but what I am emphasizing here is quality and quantity.  Books replace battery-powered toys and DVDs.  You become acquainted with every used bookstore within driving distance.  You find a yard sale stocked with good material in great shape – or your library has a charity book sale – and you get so excited, you want to roll around in the savings.  But that of course, would soil the books, which would defeat the purpose of having found a deal that saved you $100’s.

One marked method to our madness is a strong emphasis on storytelling, game and character development, and following one’s own inspiration and curiosities…whether it be fact or fiction. 

We learn better when we are intrinsically interested.  When we apply other, less interesting, concepts to those that do interest us most, then we can enjoy a new perspective to an old issue.  Your ability to recall the experience soars.  The ability to lock in on key concepts increases.  Understanding its application gives you purpose, a self-motivated reason to complete the task that goes beyond searching for an A or gold star.

We don’t just write in response to a random list of prompts.  We purge ideas daily in print, and then I will ask them to expound on it by correcting errors, adding detail, furthering the research, immersing in deep character meditation, and generally following through with our own questions that arise from a topic. 

A book report then becomes an article, or even a thesis; an essay becomes an active record of growth – a visualization of the expanding thought patterns as topics overlay influence from 1 subject to the next.

The start of a new business had my 13 year old begging for a job, so he researched and reported on labor laws and what options were legal at his age.  He participated in business planning, and reasons behind certain decisions made were explained as we went.  Both children dabbled in the concepts behind marketing and advertising.  They both learned quickly that running a storefront involved more than posting hours and opening shop, and how crucial good spelling, vocabulary, and writing skills were for success.


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